I recently had a conversation with a friend who surprised me a bit with his perspective on blogging. He is very knowledgeable of technology in general and web 2.0 specifically so I expected he was well on board the blogging bandwagon. As we talked I discovered he was actually quite cautious about the use of blogs in ministry, particularly churches. In no way did he think blogs were inherently bad but he raised some interesting points that got me thinking.
Can blogging be a bad thing in ministry? Prior to the conversation with my friend I would have answered “no” to that question and never given it a second thought. Now my answer is “yes, if not used correctly.” Below are three reasons why I've changed my perspective.
- Breach of confidential information – In every church there are situations and circumstances that are highly confidential. Whether the church staff are dealing with a couple going through a marital struggle, a suicidal person, or simply a disagreement between members, there must be a level of confidentiality in working through each of these issues. If a pastor or other staff member blogs about a situation that names, infers, or implicates a particular person or people the confidence in the church staff as a whole will have been compromised. The rule of thumb here should be to communicate clearly without giving away any information that will directly or indirectly breach confidence.
- Compromise the church's views or mission – If a church or staff member posts something contrary to the church's known views or mission the unity within the staff will have been damaged. Let's say, for instance, a pastor has been teaching about the priority of tithing and a staff member writes a post on his blog that tithing is really not a big deal and that if you have personal debts it's better to take care of those before you give to the church. I can only imagine what the church members would think with the mixed messages, not to mention the rift between the pastor and staff member. The issue here is not just the disagreement on the topic but the new divide between staff. This creates an instant line that will separate people within the church because some will be on one side and some may be on the other. Churches have enough to worry about already. An internal conflict because of one staff person's blog would be a terrible distraction from the church's mission and purpose.
- Priority with other responsibilities – This was actually one of the concerns my friend brought up and it makes sense. I don't know of many churches where the pastor or staff are lacking for things to do. I'm a huge advocate for making blogs one of those “things to do” to communicate, but I can see where it would be possible that anyone could become sidetracked with their blog posting and begin to neglect their other responsibilities. This is both a time management and priority issue and one that should be considered and thought through as anyone begins to blog. If you're going to do it (and again, I think a church should) how are you going to shift existing responsibilities or adjust priorities that the blogging staff member(s) have?
So where does all of this leave a church that wants to blog? I'm still as committed to the idea that blogs are a great communication tool as ever. The additional perspective I have now is just that a church, ministry, or any other organization should enter into blogging with a keen awareness of the full scope and impact that it can have on an organization...both good and bad.